Jennifer Kimball’s New Album Soars
Jennifer Kimball’s newest album, “Avocet”, is a terse yet touching tone poem about how the arc of life consists of being touched and untouched by love. In case you are about to Google the term, an “Avocet” is an “elegant and long-legged bird with an elegant profile and striking coloration…unique among North American birds.”
It is also a metaphor for her mother. As Kimball shared with me in an email: She was an “Avocet” — long-legged, elegant, a little exotic for an east coaster as “Avocets are native to the west coast.” Her mother was single yet in search of love, at one with a partner who died too soon, dying of cancer yet collecting articles of places she dreamed of seeing. Similarly, “Avocet’s summer in “temporary and unpredictable wetlands across western North America where it swings its long upturned bill through the shallow water to catch small invertebrates.”
These emotionally unsettled landscapes have long been the home for Kimball’s music. Kimball’s first album — “Veering from the Wave” — is unified by songs that chronicle the singer-songwriter’s soaring but uncertain journey to find love and belonging after the death or her mother and Kimball’s divorce. In “Avocet,” she has again chosen love as her theme. But the music in this recent work is insistently more reflective and ironic. Indeed, “Avocet” is closer to plainchant with melodies that — like reciting tones — echo and repeat.
All the better because as she told me: “Sometimes songs get written in a blur of focus and intent (rare!). Sometimes songs happen more in a chronicle of events.”
Each song in “Veering” tells part of a story. In “Avocet” each piece stands alone. The lyrics are more declarative than dreamy. We cannot live without love. As time passes, love (or what love becomes?) is being secured in small ways that are measurable and full of meaning. Love transforms the constant turning of pages into a story:
In “Someone to Read to Tonight,” she sings:
Nothing else matters now.
You’ll be my someone to read to tonight.
Silence the voices inside your head
that sing you a dissident tune…
You have someone to read to tonight.
The first song of the album is “Love & Birds.” Kimball notes that it “began as a kind of free-form poem during the time we were cleaning out mom’s house (after her death).
And yet rather than an elegy, the refrain of “Love and Birds” establishes an ironic arc for the rest of the album:
“You build your nest with what you find;
first love is never far behind. “
In the last two songs of “Avocet,” this irony veers towards despair and then back to scavenging for any sign of love.
In “Where is Love” she sings: “Where is love? Where is mercy? Where is forgiveness? Where is the end of an eye for an eye for an eye?
This plaintive cry is unanswered. Instead, the last album last song (lyrics from a poem by Billy Collins) captures the small gestures we seek to affirm love: “Couldn’t you send a postcard from Rio. Just a postcard?” In the end, the sharing of memories is either essential or sufficient to sustain love. Jennifer Kimball’s “Avocet” soars and succeeds in showing us that in memories the endless search for love endures.
Note: You can pre-order the album and participate in the launch by going to this site: